High Speed Internet Access will connect Natchitoches Parish

Former Senator Gerald Long and Senator Bill Cassidy are hosting a broadband tour, bringing the discussion about expanding high speed internet access to parishes in Northeast, Northwest and Central Louisiana. Long and Stephanie McKenzie from Cassidy’s office in Shreveport held a meeting on March 9 with mayors from towns and villages in Natchitoches Parish, Parish President John Richmond, and representatives from the Natchitoches Regional Medical Center, Natchitoches Parish School Board, Natchitoches Community Alliance, and the City of Natchitoches.

Long impressed upon everyone the importance of taking ownership, becoming organized by forming a commission or board to oversee this project and leaving politics out of it. He suggested that members should represent first responders, 9-1-1, the school board, Northwestern State University, the Central Louisiana Technical Community College, the Natchitoches Regional Medical Center, Agriculture, Forestry, Real Estate Agents, City and Parish Government Officials, State Senators and State Representatives, someone who knows how to write grants, someone in utility services (SWEPCO), and someone in the Communications Business (EpicTouch or AT&T).

“This will work when the community works as one voice,” he said. “You’re a marathon runner who’s just now starting the race. “You need to make sure that everyone in the community is represented and that everyone has a seat at the table.”

This broadband expansion tour comes on the heels of the announcement that Natchitoches Parish was allocated $13,456,731in the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Auction to provide high speed internet to 4,733 unserved/underserved locations. Eligible locations include areas around the rural communities of Goldonna, Lakeview, Fairview Alpha, Clarence, and Readhimer. The winning bidders in Natchitoches Parish were Segnem Egere Consortium, Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, and AMG Technology Investment Group.

The winning bidders have 6 years to complete the build out, but there are significant incentives to complete the work faster. The FCC website contains an interactive map that allows addresses to be entered to determine if that location is eligible for funding and who the winning bidder for that particular census tract was. The interactive map can be found here – https://www.fcc.gov/reports-research/maps/rdof-phase-i-dec-2020/.

The Village of Goldonna celebrated on Feb. 28 the fact that Goldonna Elementary and Jr. High will soon have access to high speed internet.

Waskom went on to say that the lines are fiber optic and not copper which provides more reliability for the users. He also shared that the contract that was awarded was $750,000. Ninety percent of that was sitting in reserves in Baton Rouge and identified for Natchitoches Parish. The School Board was responsible for the other 10 percent. The money officially can be used for broad-band expansion.

The School District also stated that there are other places in the Parish that they would like to bring the same service to in the very near future. Provencal, Marthaville, Robeline and Cloutierville are on the radar to receive these services. Even though the school in Cloutierville is closed there are still students who reside in the area who need connectivity.

At Tuesday’s meeting School Board Business Affairs Director Lee Waskom informed the gathering that they plan to have Goldonna connected by September. The goal is to have everything done in the next two and a half years.

The Natchitoches Regional Medical Center received a grant last year to grow its telemedicine capabilities, but residents need access to high speed internet so they can utilize this service.

“I want this [expanding broadband access to the rural areas of the parish] to be the next thing we all get behind,” said Richmond. “We’re going to have to dedicate some real conversations to this initiative.”

Long said he can see the timeline to bring high speed internet access to all areas of the parish occurring within a three year period.

“This will help bring economic development to the area,” he added. “It’s not going to be easy but if we all work together things will begin to fall into place.”

12 thoughts on “High Speed Internet Access will connect Natchitoches Parish

  1. What about people in the south end of the Natchitoches Parish? Seems like we’re always forgotten about.

  2. fiber optics everywhere is the answer and not much maintenance issue’s like cable internet which goes out all the time, we need fiber every where its reliable and works great.

  3. Since a certain telephone company told us that we had high speed internet, fiber optics, and all the fancy stuff and then had the gall to charge us for all those services, I sure do hope they start close to town with this 6-year project. We were told much later that the fiber optics did not go past the river from downtown. When a company hires people and either does not train them properly or does not train them at all and we are lied to, then we need something for all the money we paid in for something we don’t have. All I have to say about this is that I hope AT&T is truthful this go-round.

    • MEWHP I have many issues with AT&T too.

      “community works as one” Why isn’t there a person or persons from the rural areas to work with this group. After all, these are the areas this is going to serve.

      Sounds like MEWHP would be a good representative for our voices. Also, there are mayors in each rural village that would represent our rural voice as well.

      Just cannot trust the Natchitoches “powers that be” to do what we citizens need out here in the forgotten land of the boondocks.

      • We can’t trust the powers that be in city or parish to take care of the needs of people living in the parish. I guess really all they want from us is to pay our taxes, sit down and shut up. They don’t really want to hear any of the issues we want to discuss with them, and there are a few of the parish commissioners I would like to grab by the ear and tell them to stand there and listen to what the people have to say.

        I’ll tell you Old RN, I don’t think they would want me on their little group because I have heard so many lies from city, parish, internet providers, and that includes most of them that we have talked to when trying to get decent service and we are mighty close to that city limit sign. But you, mam, have read here how I have a stubborn streak and I’ll fight for what I think is right, and it does not matter one bit who it is. How many times have we been ignored and told “let’s just do this first, and y’all help us get it done, then we’ll take care of yours.” They lie to us and I’m tired of it.

        Maybe we all need to attend some planning meetings and start holding somebody’s feet to the fire. That would get their attention for sure.

        • MEWHP and Anon 7, they wouldn’t want either one of you. It would be nice if Richmond would just answer these questions here on the NPJ site you two made and respond to your feelings and ideas.

          It is hard for me to attend any meetings at night as my night vision is blinded by on coming vehicles. I hear I will get to vote on taxes in the near future. That’s it as far as my voice can go. I feel like I am being forced to vote for taxes. No tax increase, no roads. Vote for tax increase then gradually see the money going somewhere else. Then again, no roads.

        • If you have not been to a parish council meeting you should. You can learn a lot by just watching and listening.

  4. So who is going to manage and maintain the system once complete? How much are the recurring costs of management and maintenance going to be? Who will bear those costs and how much are they projected to be per year? Will users bear those costs or are non users, through taxes, on the hook for for them as well?

    • Excellent questions Anon 7. Hope you can be a voice in this group as well. These questions need to be explained.

      • My experience tells me that they don’t want people with these types of questions to be anywhere near this type of government endeavor.

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